Video stores fed youthful imaginations

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 16, 2010

I really miss Mom and Pop — and I cannot be the only one.

I’m not talking about my Mom and Pop. Thankfully they are alive and well.

No, I mean the “Mom and Pop” stores that once dotted small town America. Specifically, I mean “Mom and Pop” video stores.

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Growing up in the 1980s, these small family-owned stores were a fundamental part of being a kid and coming of age.

It didn’t matter that these were tiny, often overcrowded, businesses. They were the equivalent of a neighborhood Disneyland.

They were on nearly every street, with towns like Ashland, Ironton and Huntington each having a half dozen or more.

To kids like me, these stores were like portals to other worlds, feeding an already rampant imagination. A visit would open the door to action, adventure, fantasy, science fiction, comedy, history and much more.

It was the era where VHS was king. And it was great!

Each store was somewhat unique, offering different movies and video games in many cases.

In addition to the many trips with my parents that became quality time, trips to the video store became like a multimedia scavenger hunt. My friends and I would start our summer days by hopping on our bicycles, pedaling furiously to each stop in search of those hidden gems.

Sadly, this makeshift rite of passage is a thing of the past because most small video stores have gone the way of the DoDo bird — just like VHS tapes themselves.

In the early to mid 1990s, most small stores were replaced by the big franchises like Blockbuster and Movie Gallery.

These chains devoured the business and put the Mom and Pops out of business in a Darwinian fashion.

Apparently the next stage of evolution has come.

Movie Galleries across the country are closing their doors and Ironton’s branch is one of the casualties. Who knows what the future holds for Blockbuster?

Of course the video stores can partly blame themselves for having poor business models, being slow to adjust to changing technology and not listening to its customers soon enough.

Apparently cable TV, on-demand movies and services like Netflix have taken their toll.

All these are good options but something just doesn’t feel right about having a town without a video store.

I am afraid future generations will miss some of that magic that helped make movies so special.

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at